I’m a bit late getting to this second of Monteith’s appearances as the Scotsman’s NHS Scotland and by association, SNP, critic. Here are his main points that the Scottish Government is ‘being disrespectful to voters when they resort to “whitabootery” (comparing with NHS England) and that there are ‘official statistics and credible anecdotal evidence that demonstrates a growing crisis in Scotland’s NHS.’
There are two things to say about comparing one system with another. First, it’s a very common and, if done properly, fairly objective way of measuring how effective a system is. It’s the method used by the Commonwealth Foundation of New York to compare the US health system with 10 others in 2015. Its findings were used to make recommendations for improvement in the US system and much liked by Tories such as Mrs May and the Hunt. To take another example, the PISA comparative research of educational standards also seems an acceptable form of ‘whitabootery’ to the Scottish Conservatives. See:
‘Ms Davidson has previously warned her party could withdraw its support of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) after schools recorded their worst ever performance in a global study.The latest Programme for International Students Assessments (PISA) found Scottish pupils not only trailing behind their English counterparts but those in former Soviet bloc nations Slovenia and Estonia.’
There are of course problems in PISA but that’s for another place. One more example to make the point, are the GERS figures regularly used to undermine Scotland’s economic case for independence. Here’s Tory Murdo Fraser on them:
‘Scotland’s notional deficit therefore stands at a staggering £13.3bn or 8.3% of GDP. The UK-wide deficit, meanwhile, stands at 2.4%. The gap between the two deficits is the highest it has been since GERS started being compiled in 1998/99’
I know, the GERs figures are almost all based on estimates and of little value but, again, that’s for another place and time.
So, it seems comparisons with England or the UK are just fine when they damage the case for independence but not when we seem to be doing better. Notably, of course, the NHS comparisons, so disliked by Monteith, come from the reliable sources, Nuffield and BBC Scotland (😉) and are not subject to any undermining critique. See, for example:
By comparison, both PISA and GERS have attracted widespread criticism. See these summaries:
Monteith’s other main point is that there are: ‘official statistics and credible anecdotal evidence that demonstrates a growing crisis in Scotland’s NHS.’ Let’s deal with the anecdotal first. His Wikipedia page doesn’t say what degree he has or if has one in the Education section. In the Career bit it reads: ‘Following university Monteith initially worked as a researcher for Thatcherite London-based think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies.’ Is he another of the ‘Murphy school’ who didn’t graduate in anything or pass the Research Methods module? Anyhow, he should still know that an anecdote is an anecdote even if it’s true. You can’t use them to make generalisations, at all! As for the official statistics, he offers these:
‘Conservatives demonstrated that even though the SNP promised to end the practice, more than 10,000 ambulances have been dispatched with one crew member on board in the last four years. Last year, the SNHS sickness rate was 7.6 per cent, a third above the target of five per cent and well beyond the private sector average of 1.9 per cent. Hospital beds continue to decline (down from 21,340 hospital beds in 2016/17 against more than 23,000 in 2012/13) but are not replaced by more social care places for the elderly, as these too have declined (down from 38,465 in 2012/13, to 37,746 in 2016/17).’
I’ve already dealt with his and other misunderstanding of the ambulance and hospital beds stories here:
As for the sickness rate in SNHS being higher than in the private sector, well of course it is. They work with sick people. They’re exposed to infected bodies and clothing. They’re exposed to people suffering. I’d like to see Monteith’s attendance record after a year in A&E or a ward for extreme mental health cases. As for the private sector having a lower rate, well of course it has. Leaving aside the point just made, many private sector workers have no union protection and, in some cases, absolutely no rights at all and are thus afraid to go off sick. If he’d like an anecdote, I was served recently in a filling station by a young man who seemed to be suffering from the flu. His colleague told him to go home but he said he couldn’t because he’d been off ill in the previous month!
This is Monteith’s second rant in the Scotsman in seven days. I know he’ll be cheap, but the Scotsman needs to recover more than a little pride in itself.